RealD has secured its most significant order by a circuit for the RealD Ultimate Screen, a superior matt-white reflective screen, with a 100-screen order from Wanda Cinema Line Corporation in China. The deal will see no fewer than 100 RealD Ultimate screens installed in premium screens of Wanda Cinema line. The first four auditoriums to be equipped by March 2019 will be the Wanda Cinema Beijing Tongshou, Beijong CBD Branch, Beijing Tiatongyuan Branch and Wanda Nantong Branch.
The RealD Ultimate Screen was launched back in 2016 and has gained some traction with a current footprint of 108 screens in 41 cities. According to RealD, around 40% of screens are installed in RealD LUXE auditoriums, the company’s PLF moniker, plus other RealD cinema locations in China. The technology features superior brightness, sharper refined images and greater uniformity. It also offers ghosting-free 3D and therefore offers increased synergy with RealD’s core 3D technology for premium screens.
The technology has been designed to enhance the 3D experience by offering a superior matt-white but still reflective screen for 3D images. By preserving the polarisation of the 3D image (from the projector and the 3D interface), RealD claim it offers over 75% more light reflected than a conventional silver screen.
Wanda plans to utilise this technology with their own PLF screens to enhance attributes of their technology package, particularly 3D effectiveness, while still retaining their own exhibitor PLF brand. The technology could be seen as significant to Wanda in terms of the development of their own PLF brand/s and retaining its competitive positioning.
While RealD are obviously targeting the Chinese market (the largest 3D screen market globally), the deal is also significant in an international context in terms of the technology roll out. This is due to the prominence of Wanda as an international (global) circuit through its sheer size, innovative nature as well as through direct links to the wider AMC/Wanda exhibitor group. The deal overlaps the existing agreement with Wanda for 4,000 RealD 3D screens and is a strengthening of the relationship. The deal is significant for RealD in furthering the roll out of its Ultimate Screen and setting a benchmark for exhibitor PLF screens, not just in China but also globally.
RealD has also developed closer relationships with other key international exhibitors following on from long term renewals of its 3D equipment in 2018 such as with Cineplexx, Cinemark and AMC earlier in 2018. For Cineplexx, the deal also includes the planned installation of 10 Ultimate Screens across Europe. Other Ultimate Screen locations include Odeon Surrey Quays (UK), AMC in Burbank and Cinemark Plano, Texas (USA).
Nonetheless, the large-scale order for RealD comes as the options for displays have grown both more complex and competitive in the cinema environment. The product is targeted at the premium end of the market as an option for upgrading the physical screen or in a combination of options for improving 3D presentation.
RealD as a company has long attempted to diversify away from a purely 3D company, such as with the previous launch of LUXE (but this has been wound down internationally), and this is a significant development for their other key technology assets as they solidify their position in the wider field of visual technology including their software solution, Truemotion alongside Ultimate Screen and XL.
However, the large-scale order also comes as the 3D movie market has long matured and 3D versions of major movies no longer command top attention at the box office; 3D is just one of the many immersive formats offered for audience selection such as PLF, 4D and IMS (immersive motion seating), and the multi-screen format. As an indicator of this, global 3D box office declined 4.0% to $7.6bn in 2017.
The 2017 3D total was also more heavily propped up by China which accounted for the majority or 62% of the 3D global revenue total, up from 55% the previous year, according to IHS Markit analysis. Even in China, where total 3D box office revenues rose 6.5% in 2017, 3D as a contribution to total revenues has come under pressure reaching 57.6%, down from over 65.0% the previous year, marking the first time 3D’s share has experienced a decline in popularity year on year in China.